* *
* Break even points
"In the UK, the average consumer replaces his or her mobile phone every 18 months. Old phones sit in drawers gathering dust, or if discarded, become hazardous waste. The cadmium from one mobile phone is enough to pollute 600,000 litres of water."
(Holdway and Walker, 2004)


Break even points: when to buy a new product

At some stage, it is better for the environment if you change your old product for a new, more modern one - a point known as the breakeven point. Newer models may have reduced energy consumption: for example, improved motor efficiencies in fridges and freezers since the early 1990s mean that replacing older products with modern models will lead to improved energy efficiency (Byrne, 2000) and an overall improved environmental impact. Working out a product’s breakeven point is a delicate balance of factors such as functionality, features, fashion and environment.

Why do we throw things away that still work?
There are three main reasons why we discard products before they reach breakeven point:

* Technological obsolescence, when "the functional qualities of existing products are inferior to newer models"
* Economic obsolescence, e.g. too expensive to repair
* Psychological obsolescence, when "we are no longer attracted to products or satisfied by them"
(Cooper, 2004)

mobile breakeven point

What companies can do
To reduce obsolescence, companies will have to design products that are:

* more easily upgraded
* easier – and cheaper – to mend
* more durable (better quality)
(Cooper, 2004)
Why companies should act
The new EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation should persuade companies a sensible and economic way forward. Adopting this approach will minimise the amount of products they have to take responsibility for at the end of their life, due to a reduction in product turnover.

Another approach is the idea of moving from products to services. In this business model, companies still provide the product function, e.g. clothes washing, but they do not, for example, sell washing machines. This way they can produce highly efficient products that are durable and easy to maintain and upgrade because they keep hold of the residual value of the product.

Electrolux – functional sales

pay per wash washing machines * On the island of Gotland in Sweden, Electrolux has worked with energy utility company Vattenfall to offer a pay–per–wash option for the participants’ laundry needs costing 72 p a wash.

This gives everyone the chance to pay for only the "function" of clean
clothes. At the same time, it creates incentives for reducing energy and detergent consumption. This, coupled with the fact that Electrolux’s best washing machines consume less than 1kWh (kilowatt/hour) and less than 40 litres of water per cycle, makes for a very impressive solution.
(Jessen, 2001)

Car–sharing service

AutoShare is a Canadian corporation that provides a car-sharing service.

"Cars are stationed near members’ homes and accessible 24 hours a day via a telephone reservation system. Members can use the car for as little as one hour, or as long as they like." They pay a small subscription fee and are then charged for their hours of use.

Essentially, they pay per unit of mobility. Car sharing "intensifies the use of cars, meaning a lower number of cars are needed... for a given demand of mobility. AutoShare estimates that every ’shared’ car on the road replaces 5 to 6 privately owned cars."

Members also tend to drive less than those with private cars, as it is in their interest "to reduce the hourly costs associated with driving behaviour". This, in turn, "reduces emissions which contribute to smog and climate change". For those travelling less than 12,000km per year by car, "using the AutoShare service is cheaper than purchasing a private car, and the company manages the associated issues of owning (regular maintenance and repairs, cleaning, insurance, etc.)".
(Manzini and Vezzoli, 2002)

Next: Why we need to change

What can I do?
* business individual education


* CLICK HERE to calculate how much "nature" your mobile phone and personal computer require » *
measure your footprint

The Waste Makers
V. Packard, Penguin, 1963

Factor Four – Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use
E. Von Weizsacker, A.B. Lovins and L.H. Lovins, Earthscan Publications Ltd, 1998



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